We are fortunate in the Mirenda Center for Sport, Spirituality and Character Development, to work “in the shadow of the pillars” (as Sr. Marguerite O’Beirne, Vice President for Mission and Ministry here at NU would say). It was with great intention that the ideals of Respect, Balance, Reflection, Beauty and Play were selected to highlight the connection between Neumann University’s Catholic Franciscan charism and the formative role sport plays in our lives and in our world. Revolving around each theme, the 5 pillars contain stories, quotes and photographs that could bring you to tears – of joy, of admiration, of loss, of gratitude. But they don’t stand alone – each pillar concept is so deeply interwoven with the others.
We commonly get caught up in the frenzy that surrounds sport: from the fever pitch of fanatic parents at a little league baseball game, to the opulent production that has become the Super Bowl. But we must remember that – at its core – all sport is fundamentally play. As our Play pillar notes, “The English word sport, from the Latin word deportare, means to ‘carry away.’ Play lightens us up, opens the imagination and invigorates the soul.” True play requires presence not just of body, but also of mind and spirit.
This is echoed again on the Balance pillar. Psychologist and author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi uses the term “flow” to “denote the holistic sensation present when we act with total involvement.” This concept of flow, being in the zone, implies balance of both the inner and the outer experience of each moment. It is easy to recall moments of flow in sport: an effortlessly executed basketball offense, a flawlessly fed bicycle kick, perfectly placed oars in the water. According to Csikszentmihalyi, these moments are not just the result of technical training, but of synchronicity with the spirit as well.
All of the skill and preparation matter not if one isn’t fully present in the moment.
So as Kareem Abdul-Jabar, and the title of this post, remind us:
“Don’t ever forget that you play with your soul as well as your body.”